Certain places intimidate the heck out of me, like the supplement aisle at any health food store. Whoa.
I just wish I had some Harvard expert telling me whether Omega-3s, St. John’s Word, SAM3 and folate would help my depression.
Voila! Next thing I know I’m at a fundraiser for psychiatric research at Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital in this oceanfront mansion in Palm Beach, (also very intimidating) listening to Dr. Marlene P. Freeman, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and expert in Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Lord knows I wasn’t there as a philanthropist. I’m a journalist – I used my last buck to tip the valet. But every year Michelle and Howard Kessler, who own the intimating, oceanfront mansion, invite me to their fundraiser because they believe – regardless of how much money you have or do not have – “no family goes untouched.”
Since these are the heavy hitters in the world of philanthropy, Mass General brings in its best researchers – like Dr. Freeman. Among all of Dr. Freeman’s titles, positions and research, she chaired the American Psychiatric Association’s Task Force on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) – which focused on the potential benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids, St. John’s Wort, SAMe, folate, light therapy, acupuncture, exercise and mindfulness based psychotherapies in treating psychiatric disorders.
First of all, it’s pretty cool that the APA is taking CAM so seriously. Second, this whole event could not have happened at a better time because I am about to run out of my Omega-3 supplement and was wondering whether it was worth investing in some more.
And the answer is…yes.
That’s a lot of demons for a woman who had none. Whitney Houston was mentally ill. She had the disease of addiction. She was not possessed. She was very, very sick. I afford her the same compassion and sympathy as I would someone who is slowly dying from cancer or some other progressive, fatal illness.
Addicts and alcoholics – like me – do not have demons. We have illnesses.
To the folks in Salem in the 1600’s we probably seemed possessed because, let’s be honest, some of us do some pretty wicked things when we are under the influence – especially those of us, like me, who are dual-diagnosed and who – like me – have other mental illnesses, such as bipolar.
We stigmatize addiction and alcoholism every time we use the word “demons” to describe our illnesses. We take a step backwards in the relentless effort to convince others that these are “real” medical conditions. The American Medical Association has recognized alcoholism as a legitimate illness for decades. Why can’t we?
And again. And again. And again.
If there is one thing I do truly well, it’s disappointment. You would think that somewhere along the way I would have learned that expectations are premeditated disappointments. The way to avoid a helluva lot of disappointment is to stop expecting things to turn out my way.
Like, if you don’t expect to get roses on Valentine’s Day, then you’re not disappointed when you don’t. D’uh.
And if you don’t expect to get the promotion you really wanted, you won’t be disappointed when you don’t. So, why am I sitting here crying? Because I expected to get the promotion and I did not. Again. I’ve been turned down for this position twice in the last four years. I am pretty stubborn. Relentless. I don’t give up. I once ran the last five miles of a marathon without shoes because my shoes were killing my feet and I was not about to give up.
There are two ways to handle disappointment. The way I handled it before my last spectacularly awful major depression and the way I handle disappointment after my last spectacularly awful major depression. BD – before depression. AD – after depression. BD, I would have told myself that I am a total loser. I will never be good enough. I would have been pissed off at the bosses who chose someone else for the job and I would have been pissed at the person who got the job.
What the hell was I thinking? I wrote a while back about the effects of stimulants on the manic brain – like mine. It took me a few decades, but I came to the conclusion that caffeine is probably not the smartest thing for me to ingest. It seemed kind of stupid to feed a stimulant to an already stimulated brain. So, I quit caffeine. You don’t realize how addicted you are to caffeine until you quit. One word: HEADACHE.
Anyway, I was pretty tired the other day. Sitting at my desk, staring at the computer, trying to write a story I had been working on for months. I was seriously stressed.
So, I drank a Red Bull.
That’s what it is like to be a newspaper reporter. Writing a balanced and fair story means you tick-off everyone in it. Just asking questions and doing research for a story incenses some people. But everyone wants the media to do its job – report what, how and why something happened. Ferret out wrongdoing or refute gossip. And you expect us to do it quickly and for little pay. Do you know any rich journalists?
It ain’t easy living on a perpetual deadline. We are very, very human but we are not allowed to make mistakes. When we do, even misspelling a name, we must correct and publicize it. Doesn’t matter that it wasn’t intentional or malicious – we fall on our swords and are labelled incompetent and biased. We are routinely threatened with lawsuits. And now, thanks to the gift of anonymity on the internet, nameless readers leave vicious remarks on our paper’s online edition.